Helping people turn their lives around

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In this column, we look at vocations in which members of our community are involved. This edition, we go behind the scenes in the corrective services as PARAMVIR ‘SINGHY’ CHHATWAL talks to us about his work as a Custodial Officer 

My name
Paramvir Chattwal

My job title
Custodial Officer

My employer
Corrective Services NSW

Paramvir Chattwal.Indian Link
Paramvir Chattwal, image courtesy of CSNSW

I have been in this job for
Seven months. I was working with the NSW Police Force when I came across a prison officer at Goulburn Correctional Centre. He motivated me to join Corrective Services NSW. I graduated in July last year and now work at Glen Innes Correctional Centre in the state’s north. This was after a stint at Goulburn Correctional Centre – I was the first Sikh to work there.

My educational qualifications
MBA Finance (India)
Masters in Science and Equine Management (US)
Currently doing PhD in Anglo-Sikh history (UK)
Cert III in Security and Risk Management (currently doing Cert IV)
Cert III in Corrective Services
Diploma in Intelligence Analysis (AUS)

What the job entails
Security operations. This involves day-to-day management of people who are in custody. As offenders, they may be put away, but the buck doesn’t stop there. We have a duty of care to them, to ensure their overall welfare in terms of physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. The onus is on us to see not only that they’re OK, but also to reduce reoffending. We do this by encouraging them to gain life skills and encouraging good habits. We aim to inspire by teaching them skills through TAFE courses and other programs that they can use post-release. In short, we work to provide a strong rehabilitative system for them.

The hardest thing about my job is
The unpredictability of it all. I go to work each day wearing a smile, but really don’t know what to expect! Of course this could be good, given that every day is different. Not long after arriving at Glen Innes there was an incident one morning. The training kicked in immediately. It was all hands on deck as soon as possible! We completed a variety of tasks including a head check. We helped investigate the incident with NSW Police.

Being new, I guess I still have a lot to learn. There is an element of danger too: we often face situations like other frontline officers such as police and ambulance officers. But we are trained to respond efficiently and professionally.

The positive aspects…
I’m helping people turn their lives around or at least I’m doing my little bit.

I work with a variety of different people, such as the service and programs staff. And I’m exposed to a variety of different experiences as I have the opportunity to be transferred to other centres. Working at a regional prison, 50km from the nearest town, provides an opportunity to understand life and the world.

In terms of my colleagues, they’re my new family in a land where I don’t have my own. As a Sikh, everyone has received my faith very well, and I’ve learnt the Aussie way of life from them.

How the job has changed my life
I’ve learnt to be grateful to God for every little blessing in my life. I’ve always valued my freedom, but now I appreciate the little things. I find that being grateful aids in my happiness.

Advice for people who may want to get into this line of work
Working in the public service brings stability, especially for newly-arrived migrants. The consistency is comforting. Get in early, impress with your skills and capacity to work hard, and nothing will stop you from achieving high. I got into this job when I was brand new to the country, with no prior experience, and found myself welcomed with open arms. I would encourage you, even before entering the country, to check out jobs available on a forum such as Iworkfor.nsw.gov.au or similar websites.

Paramvir ‘Singhy’ Chattwal spoke to RAJNI ANAND LUTHRA on the inaugural Corrections Day which was marked on 20 January this year. It took the community beyond the prison walls to hear the stories of the men and women of the NSW correctional system who rehabilitate inmates, keep offenders accountable and aim to reduce reoffending.